Wednesday 21 February 2018

CIÉ staff to ballot on joining bus picket line

Transport chaos to worsen as Bus Éireann row spills over

Eamon McGann from Bluebell, Adam Ferguson from Cabra and Gerard Hudson from Inchicore with striking colleagues at the Broadstone Depot. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Eamon McGann from Bluebell, Adam Ferguson from Cabra and Gerard Hudson from Inchicore with striking colleagues at the Broadstone Depot. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Transport Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Anne-Marie Walsh

Passengers face public transport chaos as workers at Dublin Bus and Irish Rail are set to ballot for industrial action in sympathy with their colleagues at Bus Éireann, who have mounted an all-out strike.

Following a meeting of representatives from the three CIÉ companies yesterday, Siptu said it had a mandate for a vote.

The union's transport organiser, Willie Noone, said it was a legitimate trade dispute because members believe they are "next in the firing line" if Bus Éireann forces through pay cuts and changes to terms and conditions.

"If Bus Éireann becomes insolvent and 2,600 people have no jobs, their CIÉ colleagues are not going to sit back and take that," he said.

However, it could be a couple of weeks before they could mount pickets to allow time for balloting and the legal requirement to give one week's notice of industrial action.

Bus Éireann is losing €500,000 a day during the strike that began last Friday after it imposed cuts to earnings. Acting chief executive Ray Hernan has warned it will be insolvent in May but industrial action means it could happen more quickly.

Siptu representatives have also decided to join a protest in support of Bus Éireann workers outside Leinster House tomorrow, which could lead to disruption at Irish Rail and Dublin Bus.

CIÉ drivers who are rostered to work are expected to attend the protest that will coincide with an appearance by Transport Minister Shane Ross at an Oireachtas transport committee.

Read More: Thousands more cars on roads as strike drags on

Mr Noone said representatives agreed the protest was a means of highlighting the "failure" of the minister to take responsibility for the "dysfunctional state" of the public transport service.

The general secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers Union, Dermot O'Leary, warned that it would be difficult to maintain industrial peace across CIÉ if Bus Éireann imposes compulsory redundancies. He was commenting after the company revealed it may have to "consider other measures" to avoid becoming insolvent after a crucial board meeting yesterday.

Following the meeting, the company said it will not be able to fund a voluntary redundancy scheme, which was designed to cut 300 jobs under a €30m cost-cutting plan. It was unable to sign off on its accounts and could not pass a budget for next year because it did not have agreement with staff.

"This is a very serious matter as the board must now formally advise CIÉ that this governance requirement will not be met," it said in a statement.

It said management presented a plan that would secure the future of the company that included the elimination of "grossly inefficient" work practices, which had been acknowledged by unions.

"Without a plan which encompasses the necessary work-practice changes to generate savings, it will not be possible to fund a voluntary redundancy scheme and, faced with that scenario, the board of directors will have no option but to consider other measures to prevent the business becoming insolvent," it said.

"The board remains gravely concerned that losses continue to accelerate at Bus Éireann, exacerbated now by four days of strike action."

It urged unions to engage in talks on a survival plan.

Mr O'Leary said compulsory redundancies would be unprecedented in the semi-state sector.

He said such job losses "open a completely different and potentially uncontrollable" dimension to the dispute and present severe difficulties maintaining the "already fragile" industrial peace across CIÉ.

Irish Independent

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